Private management of Hinchingbrooke Hospital set for next year

Hinchingbrooke Hospital, which is due to be taken over by private management next year, has a new interim chief executive. Five days into his new job, Gerry McSorley spoke to ANGELA SINGER. GERRY McSorley said he believes in listening. Hinchingbrooke H

Hinchingbrooke Hospital, which is due to be taken over by private management next year, has a new interim chief executive. Five days into his new job, Gerry McSorley spoke to ANGELA SINGER.

GERRY McSorley said he believes in listening.

Hinchingbrooke Hospital's new temporary top man (his appointment is for one year) said he is going to spend his first month listening to hospital staff, patients, their relatives and GPs.

He wants to know how they think the service to patients at the hospital could be improved and adds that he has no pre-conceived ideas about changes.

In essence, Mr McSorley is not planning to import the thinking and workflows from the previous hospitals where he was chief executive (Derby and Nottingham) and force them on to Hinchingbrooke.

"Context is important," he said. "You can't import ideas from anywhere else."

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In any case, his time at Derby was 15 years ago and Nottingham City Hospital is a huge monster compared to Hinchingbrooke. It has 6,000 staff and 1,100 beds and has no accident and emergency department (this is located at the city's Queen's Medical Centre).

And although Nottingham City is a huge hospital, which trains medical staff and is involved in research, in 2005 under Mr McSorley's watch, the hospital was named best hospital for nurses to work by The Sunday Times.

"The paper noted the respect they received from their managers, they were regarded as professionals," Mr McSorley told The Hunts Post. "They were influential in the standards of care and they designed the way the care was given. Nottingham City was also shortlisted for Sunday Times Hospital of the Year."

Mr McSorley, 53, who has two grown up daughters, left school with A levels, went straight into healthcare and has worked his way up.

"I have been in hospital management all my career. It's through me like Brighton rock."

He also has a doctorate in business administration from Brunel University.

Immediately before joining Hinchingbrooke, he was senior leadership fellow at the Institute for Innovation and Improvement, set up by the Department of Health.

When The Hunts Post interviewed Mr McSorley on Monday (May 10), he said he was not in a position to answer questions about the hospital issue which is concerning most people in Huntingdonshire: privatisation.

"I don't have a view about the franchise process. I can't change the process, it's my job to make sure it goes through while maintaining a high quality of patient care."

Does he think it's necessary now Hinchingbrooke is living within its budget?

"I can't answer that question," he said. "After five days in post, I am not properly informed to make any observation on that."

He added: "It would be unusual if the franchise process did not create uncertainty [among staff] but that is why I will be working closely with staff and the trades unions to reassure them about their futures.

"The process is well in train. My job is to see it through to its conclusion, and to make sure the hospital delivers an improved level of care to patients throughout."

As a caretaker manager, Mr McSorley said it will be up to whoever runs the hospital in the long term to ask the new Government to write off the hospital's debt (created partly by NHS accounting practices).

In the meantime, he wants to help develop some new ideas among staff as well as good relationships with GPs, the primary care trust and other hospitals in the area.

Beyond that, Mr McSorley will be all ears: listening to what staff say and getting them "engaged in the decision-making process" which he believed will allow them to "enjoy their work more" and "have more control over their day-to-day lives".

The uniqueness of Hinchingbrooke's privatisation situation was one of the aspects that made the job interesting to him, he said. "That and the people, I knew I would be working with."

THE current plan is to appoint a private company to run Hinchingbrooke Hospital by October 4.

And one of the three remaining bidders for the NHS franchise - Circle Health, Ramsay Health Care or Serco - could then take over at the hospital on May 2 next year.

The franchise is opposed by the health services union, Unison, which is fighting the move and believes that 20 other hospitals could follow.

There are also concerns that none of the bidders has any experience of running an acute services hospital the size of Hinchingbrooke.

Circle Health is partly run by large financial institutions, Ramsay Health Care is a provider of private hospitals in England, and Serco has no experience of any kind of hospital management. It provides out-of-hours healthcare in prisons.

The Strategic Health Authority for the East of England will also not reveal what the firms are planning for the hospital. The NHS has said the franchise is necessary to deal with Hinchingbrooke's historic �40million debt (largely created by government accounting).

Meetings are taking place to update the public. They are:

Wednesday, May 26 and Monday, July 5 at 2pm. Assembly Rooms, Hinchingbrooke House, Brampton Road, Huntingdon. Wednesday, October 20 and Wednesday October 27: 2pm, Civic Suite, Pathfinder House, St Mary's Street Huntingdon.

A meeting is being arranged in St Neots at a date to be confirmed.